An answer to my question – what’s happening in France and Germany? -in an article by Gavin Stamp in the new London Review of Books.
Near Arras, where there are already French, German, Canadian and British cemeteries, an international memorial has just opened -have I not been paying attention or did it get little media attention over here? It is in the form of a huge open ellipse, part of it suspended over falling ground ‘in order to symbolise the fragile nature of peace’. The wall around it records the names of 580,000 men who died in that corner of France between 1914 and 1918; French, German, Canadian, British, Indian, Australian, Czech… everybody. They are not grouped by nationality; the only ordering principle is alphabetical.
Comparing this memorial to the poppies in the moat, Stamp says that the 900,000 British fatalities represented there do not include those from the Empire! – which I find hard to believe, even though I’m becoming more cynical.
Next year, alas, is the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. Stamp wonders if they’ll remind us that we wouldn’t have won it without the Germans.
The inauguration of the memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette, Arras made the news here, partly I suppose because Hollande was there. (A plane with the banner ‘Hollande demission’ flew over the site).
I like the idea of the ellipse as a way of uniting all those who died. And that it’s just names that are listed – not rank, not nationality.
And in other poppy news, this self seeded opium poppy on my allotment has popped up this week thinking its spring…